This commission happened due to an art lover viewing on line one of my small studies in pastel and charcoal drawn over a digital print taken from one of my larger paintings. The study on paper sizing up often demands some compositional arrangement and more tonal subtlety. Translating a small pastel into oil paint always interesting.
So today I begin.
These new paintings consisting of oil on canvas are untitled and unfinished showing details of each canvas. Their destination is for exhibition at ArtSpace, Great Ocean Road, Anglesea, Victoria, Australia.
I am exhibiting with a friend who shares a love of a landmark/form, Point Roadknight. We often take shots before dawn and watch sunrises where colours and forms produce interesting effects.
We are also interested in exploring many aspects of this site. Shapes of its remnant of a petrified forest, erosion of rock and resulting strange shapes, the forces of nature and the romantic sublime beauty of this stunning place.
Untitled and unfinished detail.
In past blogs I’ve described how high ocean tides have gradually removed interesting features of Point Roadknight such as ‘columns ‘ and ‘porticos’ of the petrified forest. Large sections of the rock face have fallen right angled on the foreshore.
Every year or so I bear witness to each piece of lost landform so I’ve titled this oil on canvas “DEstruction at Point Roadknight, 2018-19, dimension 120 x 92 cm
I returned to the Flinders Ranges after several years absence. The main aim was to explore the Ediacara fossils at Nilpena Station excavated by Dr Mary Drosser and open to the public at given times of year. Her colleagues and she work mid-year to coincide with Northern hemisphere summer holidays and our cooler months.
The fossils, evidence of first animal life are approx. 500-600 million yo. and situated in rocks once silt that were part of the sea floor.
Small mouthless animal absorbed nutrients from a microbial sponge on the seabed then after successive storms were encased in layers of silt like a mould. Consequently the fossils were found under side of a rock layer that prized apart could be turned upward and placed side by side revealing their habitat.
Our tour guide showed us the largest piece excavated of the ancient sea floor.
And material removed from the excavation.
In the short time that we were there I scrambled to take rubbings or frottages that I insert into my artwork in my studio. So convenient here to see clearly as those in Brachina Gorge are more difficult due to geology where strata formed rocks are tilted vertically at right angles. Although a friend found a fossil in Parachilna Gorge washed down into the river-bed. A lucky find.
Return to Drawing
After several years of printmaking then painting I changed course unexpectedly and picked up dry media and applied it to printmaking paper.
My half-done large paintings and then a series of small head in landscape images demanded a more thorough exploration about how I could develop and create iconography where my ‘landscapes’ /memoryscapes showed more succinctly a connection between mind, geology, geography and biology. How we inscribe ourselves on to landscape and landmarks and how in turn they change how we see ourselves. I sometimes feel as though searching for special places for example fossils in the Flinders Ranges, I am ‘shaped’ by aspects of the land and passage of time.
Anyway these three studies began unexpectedly as I pondered the feeling and memory of homesickness and the longing for colour, form and texture in particular places. When I lived in Western Queensland driving for kilometres through brigalow forest and experienced the flat endlessly stretching landscape and blue dome overhead I longed of orange, purple and grey tones of cliffs on the Great Ocean Road. So in Studies 1,2 and 3 for a Coastal Memory I have exaggerated the intensity of orange and made gestural marks that simplify form as a way to express a sense of loss.
I drew with compressed charcoal pencil as well as pen and ink and pastels over photographs of incomplete large oils that I had digitally printed onto printmaking paper.
This method provides me with a starting point where I turn the old incomplete images upside down or sideways into which elicits old memories. Then I build up another image that vaguely alludes to a place by drawing with pen and pastel more facets and traces of its erosion on one hand and monumentality on the other.
www.facebook.com/100003722859860/posts/1621185508015529 Three small works on BFK Rives. Exploring relationship between mind and Earth.
Three small oils on canvas about emotional experiences that I felt within this location in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia. I try to capture a moment in time when I get a feeling as though I dissolve into a particular place like a mountainside or some other landform.
One opaque eye glass reflects the landform the other eye sees beyond into the future while the ear image refers to the past history of place and deep time seen within geological layering of overlaying strata.
On another level I am reminded of memento mori paintings such as those where a person contemplating a skull is pondering life’s brevity. In a similar vein I juxtapose an intense moment in time against and within that of a space that is a deep time calendar.
Early Stages of this mixed media image based on an area of northern Victoria, Australia where dried surface of salt lake shimmer across the landscape.
I was trying to represent the experience and feelings that may effect a person as they internalise the visual impact as it becomes a visceral bodily experience.
Middle Stages look a bit over worked as I wanted a more portrait – like depiction but the changed my mind.
The background didn’t quite work – did I want the image and background to be separate or integrate into the landscape and become the landscape?
Lost the plot with colour because I sanded back this desert colour and overpainted it with yellow. Once dry, I went back to another version of original palette, kept a small amount of yellow and melded the shape of the face with an oval lake – shape, then applied a light pink not too pretty but then overpainted this with same base with burnt umber to mage the pink earthy in appearance.
In this large oil painting my imagery is about a human intimate connection with nature rather than seeing nature and as an example of the sublime.
I incorporated a frottage taken from part of the gorge into the composition. The solitary eye depicted beside the frottage, done with graphite on rice paper refers to a tradition in the late 18th century before the invention of photography where lovers exchanged an image of one of their eyes painted as if part of a jewellery on a type of brooch.
A rectangular shape could be a doorway and on the right is a fossil shape that refers to those found in that area that are 500 million years old examples of first animal life.
I’m sure that as stages develop the composition will need simplification.
The studio painting began as an idea originating from this detailed sketch that was originally based on a digital print from my Mungo series. As I started drawing with pen and ink the image suggested a theme about my experience from The Kimberely in West Australia. The black shape resembled the amazing landforms in that area that resemble bee hives. Sediments placed in layers washed from ancient mountains inland over time eroded, transported by water and deposited in layers. Further erosion resulted in what resembles large striped mounds.
One of Two old discarded collagraph plates became a texture ground for a copy of the small sketch, an oil titled Journey to the Bungle Bungles, 2018
The other became the ground for another version of that theme which I titled Memory of the Bungle Bungles, 2018.
The last stages always take more time for me than the early stage with their rush of inspiration. The other tricky thing has been the time it has taken for my hand eye coordination to click in so that I could depict fine lines and details in a graphic linear style, not my usual way of painting where random textures and washes of tone and colour are strong elements of the composition.Having been quite hesitant i slowly became more meditative as concentrating on drawing fine line work had a calming effect.
i felt that the right hand side of the image looked too fiddley and slightly disconnected from the white table shape. And shapes in the lower section seemed a bit floaty and needed more weight and anchoring into the composition.
I carried the musical notes across the composition and across the table surface, removed a shape on the right opening up the space so that small white Ladybird beetle tracks joined to the other pictorial elements without cluttering the space.
The duration of the annual holiday at Fairhaven on the Surfcoast in Victoria, Australia is a time of relaxation, celebration and summer activities whether in-door catchup of movies and books or outdoor sport or gardening pursuits but in the background is the threat of bushfire. Rather than depict ominous signs in the landscape I depicted a Ladybird beetle in the right hand section of the composition and small flames appearing beneath a tent on the far right-hand side.
Below is a slide show of the painting’s progress.
The next stage of the process was a gradual blocking in of composition elements and objects, emphasising some and placing them so that the composition remained coherent.
I felt that at this stage things looked too spacious but once built up and nearer completion I would have achieved my aim.
Having filled in most areas and made small adjustments to some objects – fading some and delineated others I felt that the composition now looked too busy. So back to scumbling over unnecessary line work, fading back other linear elements and painting over other objects and simplifying others so that I could stand back and re assess the composition as a whole.
Still too busy so let it dry. I am finding that this style of painting without my usual textural passages of various paint thickness and viscosities is such a change and seems more contemplative, less emotional and not as energetic as control of paint application consists of careful rendering as opposed to sweeping layers of paint with a trowel across the canvas. There’s something more relaxing about having this much control nothing left to chance here.
This stage has been the most frustrating so far as I considered the lower part of the background that depicted or suggested aspects of a beach scene to look too brown. After a day or so pondering and hoping that i would change my mind and like the brown I sought advice from a discerning advisor. We both gave it the thumbs down.
So a careful sanding and application of a veil of transparent white over the brown would fix the problem and allow for a more transparent and slightly more pink/orange overpainting.
I retained the yellow sunlit sky but carefully scumbled and then softly rubbed on the veil resulting in a bleached area that still allowed for the shape, line and lettering beneath to show through.
The glaze mixture consisted of Pilbara red and golden-yellow both transparent/semi transparent but with any Burnt sienna this time leaving a more orange transparency.
Once dry overpainting of figurative and text elements could begin. Lettering was my main concern so I employed as a careful rendition is not my forte. While there are strong linear elements in my compositions I mostly use oil painting sticks which leave a broken line or hatching combined with overpainting or sometimes compressed charcoal integrated into textural areas. Other line techniques include loaded round brush stroke or sometimes just squeezing out paint straight from the tube or making a line from a trowel edge. Or printed lines or string lines lifted from the paint surface or lines painted with the aid of masking tape, anything but hand drawn exact lines that cannot smudge as this painting requires the glaze surface to have as little disruption as possible. Luckily a skilled friend was at hand and partly sketched in the text “Fairh’ (short for Fairhaven) and drew in some lines that indicated the figure.
I’ve been careful letting it dry before the easier lines and pictorial aspects can be blocked in before further layers strengthen the shapes and images.
This stage has been about glazes and very lightly rubbing them over impasto scumbled areas.
One third across the earth coloured surface and I have a slightly glowing bruised brown made from a mixture of burnt sienna, raw sienna and Pilbara red that are mainly transparent colours. Raw sienna modified the colours that cast to an orange tinge.
Close up of section of glaze.
Gradually covering the area.
Fully covered. I still think it needs more depth so when dry, I will lightly sand and apply another glaze. Likewise l think the sky needs more glow, however without all objects in the composition that will be rendered in a flat graphic manner it is a tricky process because those contrasts alter the way glazed textures look. Out in the winter sun drying before the next layer.
Once the under painting dried I selected a mixture of burnt sienna and a touch of Pilbara red to glaze in by rubbing the landscape area in the composition.
Text (“Fairh”) short for Fairhaven, in lower right required some refinement.
Then I lightly sanded the upper area before I rubbed in a very thin Pilbara red and scumbled in a light pink.
When the lower area dried I thought it looked a bit dull so I scumbled a pink in parts.
When this thoroughly dries I can glaze burnt sienna over it that should produce an orange brown. At this stage objects diminish as the colour takes over. Also felt that the composition required more balance on left side so I’m thinking of placing Miro’s octopus-like image floating in the sky of ‘Catalan Landscape’ in this spot. Once background colours dry all the interesting over painted detail can be emphasised in a graphic way. Still a way to go yet. Just trying to approximate the bruised but orange background and a quite acid but glowing yellow of the sky takes time because of successive layering but worth the effort.
This client had fallen in love with the art work of Surrealist artist Joan Miro and asked me if it was possible to come up with an image that was homage to his work but not a replica or copy but somehow retain something of my style too. It would be an interesting challenge because I tried to absorb ideas and techniques from Max Ernst, Paul Klee and Joan Miro as an art student and still traces remain.
We both chose Miro’s The Hunter ( Catalan Landscape ) as a guide regarding the colour and aspects of the composition with colour and line elements taking precedence. Texture as an element was the background onto which lines and flat shapes were used to depict objects and figures. The dimension of the Miro was 60×90 cm approximately but my client’s painting required to measure 90×150 cm meant that too close a resemblance to the Miro would never work. Instead of a Catalan landscape I said I’d come up with something else and bring it up to Melbourne when the painting was in early stages and see if colour, composition and subject were acceptable because changing the size may have made colour intensity too much and space elements may spread, loosing compact design and focus. I wondered whether or not the sky’s intensity would be a bit overpowering transferred to a large canvas.
Instead of a background Catalan Landscape I chose a Surf Coast scene at Fairhaven.
Detailed objects refer to each client’s activities and personalities, beginning the journey of homage to Miro meets the Fairhaven crew.
This second version about how rain, wind and Soil deposition help form the lunette texture shape and colour.
Many layers and textures finally fell into place when I rearranged the composition vertically.
In the slide show I photographed defined stages of the composition in an almost monochrome image.
This was a painting that came together without too much pushing and pulling around of compositional elements. Because the textural elements influenced and constructed the form of the image I felt that colour should be minimal. I tried to depict various types of soil around the dark surface of the dried lake bed that consisted of clays hence the textured surface made from torn frottage taken from parts of the lake’s surface with compressed charcoal and oxide powder (now painted over) as well as grated earth coloured pastel mixed in gesso.
Ink in gesso formed the underpainting over which oil paint graded tones unified disparate pieces of paper (frottage) one of which contain the time and date of making the rubbed area illuminating the earth formation beneath the paper pressed over its surface.
I often find myself reversing the composition when I seem so sure that it’s the right way up and how i envisioned it in sketch form. Then somehow the oil paint medium, its capacity to flow, bleed, make random shapes as transparent and opaque edges meet. It’s at this moment that something else takes over and I have to put all pre-conceived ideas on to the side-lines but then later bring aspects of the original idea into the hopefully concise paint mark-making often with the addition of an oil paint stick. Always love line.